Sunday, 2 March 2014

OTN Yathra 2014 - Traditional User Group v University Audiences

This tour started with two universities and then ended with a third, the four events between them were tradition user group events, technology days. Sometimes I struggle with being in a pure technology day as I worry the audience wants more details on ‘how something is done’, rather than my presentations which tend to be ‘why things are done’ which is where I tend to specialise. However, if the audience are interested, I love a technical event because they have the questions as to ‘how different technologies interact’ so as long as my sessions are correctly advertised then I am happy.

Some of my more technical peers worry about the university audiences as their deep dives into narrow technical subjects are straight over the heads of most students who may not even know the name of any Oracle products, but I love these audiences. I love to take a business problem, or an application, strip it back to the basics, and build it back up. The other thing I like about university audiences is that they like an varied agenda, they are interested in a mix of topics, our more technical audiences like streams of sessions that are all relevant to what they are going to do.

 So knowing which audience we have enables us to adapt our presentations to suit, the problem comes when the audience is mixed, this happened in Chennai, and satisfying both is very difficult but a challenge we are up to, most of us approached this by addressing the students and then continuing the drill down off line after our sessions with those who wanted to know more.

 One thing I have learnt from ACE tours is to start by investing a few minutes on who the audience is and then adapting the presentation to suit, and not making an assumption. I think those responsible for user groups, myself included, need to really understand the audience they are attracting, and what they are interested in. There is no point having the best presenters who drill down to the most detailed technology when your audience wants to know only the basics. In big events perhaps we should do both. If someone is unsure if they are basic or expert, they can do basic first and then the expert session, building on it.
What I definitely know is the most gratifying thing for me is when someone says they learnt a little from me, and go on to be much, much better than I am, do their job well and enjoy it. My job is done.


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